The Case for Miracles presents evidence of the Creator’s activity in the world
Published: 21 June 2018 (GMT+10)
Lee Strobel was once a hard-nosed atheist reporter, but was led to faith by the evidence he saw for the truth of the Christian faith. Since then, he has written a whole series of books examining whether elements of the Christian faith hold up to critical scrutiny. The latest, The Case for Miracles, follows the successful method of interviewing skeptics and experts to present and answer the hard questions, to allow the reader to come to a conclusion.
The case against and for miracles
To understand what the objections to miracles are, he first interviewed Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic magazine, to understand the atheist argument against miracles. Among Shermer’s points were that he had prayed for a miracle for his then-girlfriend, who didn’t receive a miracle, so his experience suggested that miracles didn’t take place. As his faith waned in God, his lack of belief in a God who performs miracles led to a lack of belief in miracles themselves. And he believes that claimed miracles are often badly documented and likely can be explained by natural causes.
Then Strobel interviewed Craig Keener, author of a two-volume study on miracles, the most comprehensive of its kind. Keener defends the existence of the God of the Bible and His activity in the world. He pointed to numerous medically verifiable healings of things like blindness and deafness that are not susceptible to the psychosomatic placebo effect like back pain and migraines might be. He also points to a great many miracles in developing countries in areas where medical care is not as available.
Then he interviewed Candy Gunther Brown about the efficacy of prayer. She has designed experiments that show when Christians who believe in a God who answers prayer pray for people undergoing medical treatment, their outcomes are better, with fewer complications, than a control group. She debunks one study which claims to show no effect—but that study utilized an unorthodox group that does not believe in prayer. She claims that the only thing we can learn from that study is “how not to conduct a study of Christian prayer” (p. 131). He then interviewed a missionary to Muslim people who spoke about miracles on the mission field.
The miracle of creation
When most people think of miracles, they think of the biblical stories of Jesus walking on water or turning water into wine. But as we point out in our creation presentations, the first miracle of Jesus presented in the Gospels is creation itself (John 1:3). Strobel interviews physics professor Michael Strauss, who speaks about how the universe itself points to design, and how natural laws can’t explain the origin of the universe.
Unfortunately, both Strauss and Strobel accept the Big Bang and the billions of years that go along with it. This means that the chapter is fatally flawed for biblical creationists, because along with the billions of years you get death before the Fall. We’ve written a lot about the problems with the big bang (see What are some of the problems with the ‘big bang’ hypothesis?), and in particular with Strobel’s acceptance of long ages that even undermine his own expert’s answers. However, when he speaks about how the universe is fine-tuned for life, he uses a lot of the same arguments creationists would (see The universe is finely tuned for life)
The miracle of the resurrection
The most important miracle the Bible records is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without this miracle, we could not be saved (1 Corinthians 15). Strobel interviews former cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace, who talks about the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus as a historical event, and for the Gospels as eyewitness accounts of that historical event.
He also debunks various attempts to explain away the resurrection. It doesn’t work to say that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, but only ‘swooned’—the Romans knew how to kill people, and knew the difference between a nearly dead person and a corpse. Various conspiracies are vanishingly unlikely because they would require the cooperation of many people, none of whom cracked even when they faced death for their preaching. And various hallucination theories don’t explain how groups of people witnessed the resurrected Christ.
When miracles don’t happen
A lot of people object to the miraculous and faith because they prayed for a miracle and didn’t get it. He interviews Roger Olson and Douglas Groothuis, and they cover several issues that are helpful. However, because they don’t have a biblical view of creation, they end up not being able to explain why a good God would allow bad things to happen in the first place, which is a more foundational issue than why God doesn’t send miracles to subvert the bad things once they happen.
A fairly good resource flawed by compromise
Like the other books in the series, The Case for Miracles is an accessible introduction to some of the issues and answers some key objections to the miraculous. However, the lack of a biblical view of creation means that its usefulness is limited for biblical creationists.